Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where Are You?

We're hurtling madly towards Samhein, which is both the end and the beginning of my magical year. One of the things that I do at Samhein is to set goals for myself to accomplish during the coming year, but I only do that after I've spent time looking at what I have, and have not, accomplished this year. Most of my goals are boringly practical; some are spiritual and magic.

Do you do this, too, this time of year?

If so, I offer a snippet of a podcast between T. Thorn Coyle and Sam Webster that, IMHO, makes a hugely important point for so many modern Pagans.

Thorn: The other thing that all that brings to mind, . . . in the teachings of Gurdjieff, he said, "To be successful in 'the work' you have to be successful in life. If you're not successful in life, you're not successful in 'the work.'" You know, the two have to go hand-in-hand and it ends up being a strange bootstrapping process. You know, we start out, some of us are a little more effective in life than others, some of us are a little more effective with our magic than others, but they have to start to balance each other out. And, I never trust people who pour all this time and energy into magic and spiritual work whose lives are a wreck. It's like, you know, we all go through bad patches, we all need help, you know, we all have, you know, tragedies, things like that. But, overall, I need consistency. You know, if I don't see your life consistency reflecting your magic and vice versa, I'm not that interested in talking to you.

Sam Webster: Quite justifiably. There's an old saying: A poor magician is a poor magician.

How's your health? How's your home? How are your financial plans? How are your relationships with the important people in your life?

It may be just me, with my Moon in Taurus, but I've always found it easier to engage in daily practice, as well as easier to just allow myself to fall into mystical experience, when I'm not surrounded by clutter and dirt, when my body is healthy, when I'm not terrified about incoming bills, etc.

Being able to work magic is supposed to make you more effective in the "real" world -- the world of wands and pentacles -- not less. No, you don't have to have a million dollars, or a McMansion, or a body so buff it hurts. But you do have to have a decent basis from which to work: the ability to live within your means, a clean, safe, attractive environment that meets your needs, a basic level of health.

Here, just as a starting point for your meditations, is a v simple checklist:

Do you have a daily practice?

Do you do it daily? :)

Do you have credit card debt? What's your plan to retire all of that this year?

Do you have at least six month's salary in the bank? How much will you save every month to get to that point?

Do you have a plan for your old age? If not, do you plan to die early?

When was your last physical?

Do you take a daily vitamin?

What's your plan for getting regular exercise? Enough sleep? Eating healthy meals?

Company's coming in 15 minutes. Can you make your place presentable? Serve them coffee/tea/drinks? Let them use your bathroom?

Do you know where your keys are? Your cell phone? Checkbook? Walking shoes?

Do your relationships make it easier or more difficult for you to become your better self? What are you going to do about that? If not now, when?

What's the last thing you did completely for fun? Got plans to repeat that or something similar?

What will you do differently starting November first?

Picture found here.

Update: Lyon does a better job than I did expressing my point. It's a question of balance. How happy are you with yours?


Anonymous said...

Does anyone else recognize Gurdijeff's comments as just one big obvious excuse not to get his hands dirty by reaching out to the unsuccessful masses?

Gah. So sick am I of the spiritually self-righteous elitist dreck pouring forth from the mouths of simpletons whose attribution schemas serve only to reify their own notions of having caused their own success.

The telltale sign is usually something about placing blame for the survival efforts demonstrated by political prisoners. You can tell the ones who've never gone out on a limb for causes outside their comfort zone. Always questioning the prisoners and never the politics. Never acknowledging that practicing in accord with one's values, in this day and age especially, can cost you pretty much everything.

Further, how convenient that Mr. Gurdijeff's particular set of gifts allows him to occupy and thrive in a safe niche somewhere in the "real world" of earth and fire. Meanwhile, the most assailable niches (and obviously omitted from conceptions of "real world") air and water and their potential occupants have to listen to chorus after chorus about how they are ineffectual.

Not like Mr. Gurdijeff is ever going to do anything to upset the balance (The "real world" really only consists of two elements? Nothing wrong with that. Really?) as long as he personally benefits from it. Nosiree. And this, my friends, this hubris exhibited by some "spiritual leaders" is exactly why the current paradigm, no matter how destructive, will continue unabated. Plowed under brothers and sisters be damned. I got mine.

Shorter dude: "No, I won't even talk to you. I certainly won't help (the likes of) you. I might lose my job/status/security."


Thalia Took said...

Um, yeah, that's all pretty privileged, honestly. And anytime someone uses the term 'bootstrapping', really, all's I got is a big 'fuck you.'

So, yeah, not so much with this post.

fyreflye said...

Best wishes to you and your loved one.

fyreflye said...

No, I didn't make the previous posting. Blogger did it for me. I must be a failure.

What I meant to post:

Was Aleister Crowley "successful" in life?

Lyon said...

I was going to leave you a comment on this but instead decided to just write an entire blog post thanking you for this brain food and linking back here, I hope you don't mind. But seriously, thank you. You've given me an important reminder and much to think about.

I've been going through a lot of changes this year, including a divorce, moving out on my own for the first time, then having to move to be with family due to my mother falling ill and not being able to find work here - it's all been insane and yet, beautiful at the same time. And the questions you pose are important for me to remember as I take stock of the past year and figure out where I'm heading next.

Hecate said...


Thanks for taking the time to post your reaction. First, I should say that the podcast (see link in article) is about an hour long and I may have done the message an injustice by excerpting one small snippet. The whole thing is well worth a listen. And while I'm no expert at all on Gurdijeff, I took his statement a bit differently. He doesn't say that you have to "be a success," rather, he says that you have to "be successful in life." I think there's more than a semantic difference there. For many of us, that doesn't mean being wealthy, famous, etc. Figuring out what it would look like for each of us to "be successful in life" is, I think, important work. Generally, it's a big part of the work of our teens and 20s, but we have to keep coming back and readjusting our vision as we grow.

That said, I think taking the time at Samhein to ask ourselves if we are "being successful in life" can be a worthwhile exercise and that part of that exercise needs to involve an examination of the balance between what we can imperfectly call the spiritual and the practical. (Of course, there's really no such division, which is ultimately what I think is Coyle's point.)

We've all known people, and we Pagans have more than our fair share of them, whose lives are always a wreck, who live from one crisis to another, who can never be counted upon to do what they say they'll do because (choose one) their abusive boyfriend is again on a tear, they don't have enough gas in the car to get to the meeting and no money to buy any until next week, they're physically exhausted from the all-night tv bonanza, etc. I take Coyle's point to be that, at some level, it's difficult to take what such people have to say about spiritual practice too seriously. They seem to think that they can skip the chopping wood and carrying water part of the whole equation.

Anon brings up a very valuable point which is that, in today's world, living in accord with one's values can have a high price tag in terms of financial stability. And over the past year, millions of people who did everything "right" financially have found themselves out of jobs, 401(k)s lost, housing value lost, insurance gone w the job, etc. I think the question of how to live in accord with our values and how to ensure ourselves the base level of stability that we need in order to serve those values is a hugely important part of "the work." And I, too, object to the sort of new age put the blame on the person who's sick instead of on the plant that polluted that person's water. At any rate, always grateful for comments and reactions; thanks or taking the time to leave them.

fyreflye said...

Perhaps then being "successful in life" is what Crowley called "finding your True Will." In that case Thorn's comment is spot on.

Hecate said...


In fact, Coyle and Webster discuss the concept of "true will" earlier in this podcast. The whole thing really is worth a listen.

Teacats said...

Excellent questions -- and a wonderful way to jumpstart a fresh New Year on the Wheel! Thanks for the posting! I have printed out the questions -- and hope to work on the answers. Hope that others will do the same!

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

Libby Spencer said...

I'm not sure how to classify where I am at the moment but where I want to be next is living in that hobbit house. Thanks for finding that.

clymela said...

Sooo-I was going to say: "someone must have pissed you off!" Then I was going to say thank you for the reminder of the importance of discipline and the importance of Social Security and Medicare for which most of us pay very high taxes when young.
And I still say "someone must have ticked you off at one of the parties that successful attorneys must attend even if it is with other female successful witches.Myself I am still working on myself while now enjoying the fruits of earlier labors in the form of pension/Kaiser/Social Security/Medicare for which I paid every month of my working years.
Of course if the ones in power now are are able to destroy all of that they will also be able to destroy the stock market. Unfortunately I and so many like myself was never able to buy land and buildings-real estate.

clymela said...

And Yes!!! Thank you for the Hobbit House and for all you do.
Also to say that there is a lot of space between Gurdijeff and your friend who refuses any personal responsibility for her life and therefore disappoints people over and over.

RetroKali said...

Something I like to do is go through all the pictures from the past year. Sometimes we can look at our life in pictures and see things that are really there, or not there when we thought they were. Pictures don't lie, and when it is time to look back at Samhain, and re-assess the year, they can give a good clear view.
As for the quote, I get what he was trying to say. Don't be so spiritual that you neglect the life around you, the two are intertwined. Nuff' said.

Teacats said...

Just wanted to thank you for asking about whether or not your home/house was ready for entertaining -- isn't it interesting how deeply ingrained the idea of "hospitality" goes for some many folk -- in many histories, stories, superstitions and cultures! I always believed that hospitality is so magical (you can just tell theres magic in the air at a party when everything just "clicks") Or think of the term "tea and sympathy"!

Just a rare spark of a thought ....

Jan at Rosemary Cottage